Strict or Soft?

Doug has posted his first response to Venema here. What follows will involve a certain amount of guesswork. I am going to venture to speak for Dr. Venema a bit.

Doug asks whether his practice would fall under Venema’s soft or strict definition of paedo-communion. Doug says that his church would admit a 1-year old that has noticed that he is being passed by. I am fairly certain that Venema would call this a “strict” view for the following reasons. Venema defines the “soft” view as the “admission of children to the Lord’s Supper only at an earlier age than is customary among many Reformed churches (middle to late adolescence)” (pp. 2-3). I am quite certain that a 1-year old does not qualify as an adolescent in any sense of the term. I acknowledge that Doug has an emphasis on teaching the children what the Supper means. In another post of Doug’s on the subject, he says the following:

Young children should have the Supper explained to them by their parents in each observance of the Supper, and they should be able to attend to what is said. Please note that we are not requiring that little children be able to explain the Supper before they may partake. They are recipients; they have the Supper explained to them. We feed them the bread and wine in much the same way we begin speaking English to our children when they first arrive in our homes — not because they understand it, but rather so that they might come to understand it. It is similar here. We are not asking for anything to arise in the child or manifest itself before he is qualified to receive. He is receiving and learning, not giving and teaching.

The difference between Doug’s view and what Venema calls the “soft” view comes down to this: A credible profession of faith is not required in Doug’s view or is considerably modified in such a way that the child need not be able to articulate a clear understanding of what the Gospel is. Indeed, a child need not be able to talk at all (most 1-year olds cannot). What Venema calls the soft view clearly requires “a simple but credible profession of the Christian faith” (p. 3). I should lay my cards on the table, by the way. I would say that a child ought to be taught the catechism and therefore have a clear grasp of what the Gospel is, and he has been saved. That can happen at age 6 for some really bright kids, age 9 for normal kids, and age 12 for somewhat slow kids. It depends on the kid. When they can articulate a clear understanding of the Gospel, and can therefore grasp (and is taught!) what the Supper means, that child may be received into communicant membership.

I agree with Doug, then, that there is a very problematic practice of holding children back unnecessarily because there is some idea that they cannot articulate the Gospel until age 16, or whenever it is. We need (in my opinion) to avoid two extremes. One is in looking for any indication whatsoever and reading into it that the child is saved and should therefore participate; and, on the other hand, doubting a clear articulation of the Gospel simply because of the child’s age.

One should note, here, that Venema’s goal is not to address the problem of keeping legitimate children from the Table. It is rather to guard the Table from those who are not ready yet. One could argue, I suppose, that dealing with that issue in greater depth would give Venema greater credibility. However, it is still not the question that Venema has set out to address. Therefore, I do not believe that it should be an obstacle in being convinced by Venema’s arguments elsewhere.

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41 Comments

  1. March 27, 2009 at 10:19 am

    GB by insisting on a cognitive approach to communion sounds somewhat like Steve Zrimec in a post he offered earlier.

    The point is that the two sacraments have two different functions; they act to bookend faith. The first—baptism—is God’s initiation to us by grace alone. The second—Supper—is a response to initial grace. It’s actually very Reformed to think in terms of the dialogical principle here. God bids, we respond. But one cannot respond unless and until the heart (read: the intellect, the affections and the will) has been moved, by definition. This can happen at age two or ninety-two. But it simply has to happen before the second sacrament may be rightly employed if we understand that sacrament to be a function of response.

    In basic sacramental theology the emphasis is on the objective nature of the sacraments. Reformed Sacramentology differs from Baptist “ordinance” language because the Reformed Sacramentology always empahsizes the divine doing in the sacrament, whereas Baptist “ordinance” language turns the sacraments into the doing of those taking the sacrament. Concretely, this means that Reformed sacramentology teaches that in Baptism it is God doing the Baptizing and in communion it is God who is doing the feeding. Any subjective aspect that is recognized is only recognized after this obejective aspect is clearly articulated and mercilessly pounded home.

    But in the quoted paragraph above what we see happening is that the Eucharist is being turned into the Reformed subjective sacrament. What is being contended for in the quote above is that Baptism is the Reformed objective sacrament where the emphasis is that God does all the doing while the table becomes the Reformed subjective sacrament where the emphasis falls on our doing (our response). This is not Reformed.

    It is true that the Reformed faith has a dialogical principle whereby God’s initiation and our response is proper. However, turning the sacrament of the table into a Baptist ordinance is something that I’ve never seen in any Reformed theology book I’ve ever read – and I’ve read more than a few. Again, as I’ve said countless times, this is reasoning like a baptist when it comes to the table.

    There is no way that the Sacrament of the table can remain primarily objective if we turn its role into the sacrament of our response.

  2. Uri Brito said,

    March 27, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Why does a simple, credible profession of faith have to be spoken in words? Why not with actions, signs or symbols? Why not with a gesture? Why learn the catechisms of the Reformed faith? Why not the Apostle’s Creed? Why not the Nicene Creed? How to define the gospel? Narrowly: Christ is Lord? Comprehensively: Lord, Messiah, Death, Burial, Resurrection ,Ascension, Second Coming, etc.? What does being “ready” mean? A,B,C or A,B,C & D? Your post only raises more questions, whereas Wilson sets no barriers, but faith in the promises of God to feed His little sheep and a desire to partake of one Holy food in One Holy Body.

  3. Uri Brito said,

    March 27, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Bret, exactly. The divine doing is the idea behind Reformed Sacramentology. Expecting little ones to learn before tasting of the Lord’s goodness is teaching them to earn the Lord’s goodness; it is earned by MY catechetical achievements. Nay, a thousand times, Nay! We give them the Lord’s goodness so we can train them to taste in even more profound ways of the Lord’s goodness. Grace precedes maturity into the faith.

  4. March 27, 2009 at 10:33 am

    [...] 27, 2009 in Word/Sacrament In following Lane Keister’s arguments against Paedocommunion, I continue to ask these sorts of [...]

  5. greenbaggins said,

    March 27, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I do not deny that there is an objective element in the Sacraments. I would argue that there is a subjective element. Some folk seem to think that anything subjective is practically evil in and of itself. We’ll get to 1 Cor 11 all in good time (it is the last chapter of Venema’s book). Suffice it to say that I will argue, and Venema does argue, that 1 Cor 11 *requires* a subjective element to the Lord’s Supper that infants are not capable of performing.

  6. J.Kru said,

    March 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

    It is rather to guard the Table from those who are not ready yet.
    Why would you want to to that?

  7. Zrim said,

    March 27, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Bret,

    Lane beat me to it. I can see where you’d get that from what I’m saying. But it seems to me that just as there is a bid/response nature to both sacraments there is also an objective/subjective nature to each as well. What I said above was merely to make a point against paedocommunion and for cred-communion from another angle, that’s all. Don’t worry, I agree that:

    Reformed Sacramentology always empahsizes the divine doing in the sacrament, whereas Baptist “ordinance” language turns the sacraments into the doing of those taking the sacrament. Concretely, this means that Reformed sacramentology teaches that in Baptism it is God doing the Baptizing and in communion it is God who is doing the feeding. Any subjective aspect that is recognized is only recognized after this obejective aspect is clearly articulated and mercilessly pounded home.

    OK, while I really like things clearly articulated I could do without pounding things mercilessly. But other than that, I agree.

  8. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Doug asks,

    Since the kids stay with us through the whole service, when the children start to notice they are being passed by, we begin the process of including them. Now is this strict or soft paedocommunion?

    It is soft PC on a different basis: children are admitted, not (purely) because they are covenant members, but because they have noticed that they don’t take communion. Their entrance requirement is the desire to be included.

    Jeff Cagle

  9. Reed Here said,

    March 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    If the Scripture requires it.

  10. David Gadbois said,

    March 27, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    1. Regarding the objective nature of the sacraments – in 3 Forms of Unity churches, we certainly do emphasize the objective nature of both sacraments to the point that we do not even classify prayer as a means of grace as our Presbyterian brethren do. Only Word and Sacrament are.

    But even given that God is the objective giver of grace in Word and Sacrament, it is still a fallacy to assume that the subject (God’s people) are passive recipients. Not all subjects are passive. And this is key – it depends entirely on the nature of the thing being given. For instance, God gives us the preached Word through appointed ministers. And we can only receive it through actively listening and understanding what is given. Similarly, we contend, is the nature of the Supper – God gives us Christ through our active eating and drinking in faith.

    And, indeed, it is not a coincidence that eating is an active activity (notice the active tenses of ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’ used throughout the NT in connection with the Supper), whereas someone else pouring water on you is not active, but passive.

    2. I’ve started Venema’s book, and so far so good. This book is much-needed. Venema was my church’s pastor some years back (actually, several pastors back, well before I was a member). He’s preached for us a handful of times over the past few years. Top-notch fellow, and a top-notch thinker and writer.

    He mentioned to me that he tried to get the book published earlier by P&R. Not sure what happened, but it ended up being published by Reformation Heritage Books. Consequently, he followed their convention (requirement?) of using the King James in his scripture citations. I find that to be an impediment. But that is a relatively minor issue, I suppose.

    3. Jeff said It is soft PC on a different basis: children are admitted, not (purely) because they are covenant members, but because they have noticed that they don’t take communion. Their entrance requirement is the desire to be included.

    That is a good summary of DW’s practice. This is certainly novel, even for a paedocommunionist. And it certainly is unclear what the justification for it would even be. Children desire to be included in many things, whether they understand those activities or not, or whether those activities are legitimate for children or not. Perhaps children who want to be included in the Supper are just hungry (in which case I Corinthians would direct us to have them eat at home, that’s not the point of the sacrament). Perhaps they are just envious or just want whatever mommy and daddy are having. But a 1-year old does not understand that he needs to partake of *Christ* in partaking of the bread.

    4. Re: #2, it is entirely unclear how merely raising those questions makes either Lane’s post or his credocommunion position problematic.

    5. In #3, Uri writes Expecting little ones to learn before tasting of the Lord’s goodness is teaching them to earn the Lord’s goodness; it is earned by MY catechetical achievements

    This silly little piece of rhetoric (picked up from DW, it would seem) doesn’t make a lick of sense. Learning is not earning. And the requirement of faith is not a demand for meritorious achievment. I hope we all could at least agree that faith is not a work.

  11. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I second Reed. If 1 Cor 11 requires self-examination (and I think it does), then regardless of my sympathies for the PC position, which are large!, then the Word constrains my conscience on this matter.

    The only option for PC is to persuade me that 1 Cor 11 does not apply to children (the Rayburn position) or that it has been mis-translated and mis-exegeted these many centuries (the Colvin position). I’m open to being persuaded, but I haven’t been yet.

    Jeff Cagle

  12. Uri Brito said,

    March 27, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    David, learning is earning in this context. You are teaching your covenant children that they are to do this (catechetical memorization) in order to enter in this (the unity of the Table fellowship); to learn in order to be graced by the sacraments. The reverse is the Biblical model: To be graced by the sacraments in order to learn.
    Concerning #2, the questions raised are a mere consequence of a theology not thought through covenantally and consistently. Simply, the Credo position is left with uncertainty and pure subjectivism on the matter. When you say some will be 6 years old, but others who grow up in covenant homes may be 12 before they get to such and such a point of reason and maturity to take the Lord’s Supper, then you have begun to do what Paul opposed in I Corinthians: to make classes of Christians; to categorize the body; to dis-unify the oneness of the Unbroken body of our Lord. So, this becomes very problematic indeed.

  13. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    It’s too bad, really, that we don’t have a complete record of Church sacramental practice from 1st-3rd century. There are data points (The Canons of Hippolytus, the Didache, Tertullian on Baptism), but they don’t reflect the totality of practice.

    Not that the early church was normative — but it would give us an idea of what was understood as a “sufficient profession” to commune, and whether infants were communing from the get-go, or whether that developed over time.

    In particular, I’d like to know whether the practice of PC developed in parallel with or separately from the sacramental views that characterize the EO today.

    Jeff Cagle

  14. David Gadbois said,

    March 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    learning is earning in this context

    No, learning is merely the means by which one comes to faith. Catechetical learning (BTW – I don’t know anyone who requires exhaustive memorization of WSC or HC) is the means by which we learn the Gospel and basics of the faith so that we approach the Table with faith (both understood and professed). It is not a grading procedure for effort or merit. It is a means to an end.

    to learn in order to be graced by the sacraments. The reverse is the Biblical model: To be graced by the sacraments in order to learn.

    Actually, the biblical model is expressed by Heidelberg Q&A 65, which says that the preached Word creates faith whereas the sacraments confirm it. ‘Learning’ is not the point of the Supper – the Supper doesn’t give us new information. Rather, it is a remembrance and a feeding on Christ to the strengthening of our faith and union with Christ.

    When you say some will be 6 years old, but others who grow up in covenant homes may be 12 before they get to such and such a point of reason and maturity to take the Lord’s Supper, then you have begun to do what Paul opposed in I Corinthians: to make classes of Christians; to categorize the body

    First, it is hardly ‘pure subjectivism’ simply by virtue of having to judge a credibile profession on an individual basis that results in varying ages of qualified children. Subjectivism implies that there are no fixed norms in play in making judgments.

    Second, Paul was not opposing ‘categorizing’ the body, as you say, in I Corinthians. Making categories and distinctions is not the same as making factions. For instance, we have ministers, elders, deacons, and laymen. They do not share the same set of duties and priveleges. That does not imply that any of those grouops is a second class Christian.

  15. Uri Brito said,

    March 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    David says:” No, learning is merely the means by which one comes to faith. Catechetical learning (BTW – I don’t know anyone who requires exhaustive memorization of WSC or HC) is the means by which we learn the Gospel and basics of the faith so that we approach the Table with faith (both understood and professed). It is not a grading procedure for effort or merit. It is a means to an end.”

    Are we saved then by learning? I am not referring to exhaustive memorization, but my experience of some Reformed Churches (particularly the Dutch) is an extensive amount of knowledge and memorization is required. In my position, the means is provided via baptism, the end is maturity through the continual partaking of that means.

    David says:” Actually, the biblical model is expressed by Heidelberg Q&A 65, which says that the preached Word creates faith whereas the sacraments confirm it. ‘Learning’ is not the point of the Supper – the Supper doesn’t give us new information. Rather, it is a remembrance and a feeding on Christ to the strengthening of our faith and union with Christ.”

    Indeed. The preached word creates faith even in my mother’s womb (Psalm 22). The Sacraments confirm that union with Christ that comes via water baptism (union with Christ, see Gaffin – Romans 6; see also Lusk’s excellent Paedofaith). Certainly, learning is not the point of the Supper. That is your point, however. You say: You must learn this in order to receive this. I say, receive this (bread and wine) and grow in faith by learning this (Creeds, catechisms ,etc). On your last point: Yes, that feeding on Christ begins when we are in Christ. What is the sign and seal of baptism? Answer: regeneration. WCF

    Finally, you say: “First, it is hardly ‘pure subjectivism’ simply by virtue of having to judge a credibile profession on an individual basis that results in varying ages of qualified children. Subjectivism implies that there are no fixed norms in play in making judgments.”

    You are right, it is not pure subjectivism, it is totus subjectivism. You criteria in your session may be completely different than another session. By what standard?

    “Second, Paul was not opposing ‘categorizing’ the body, as you say, in I Corinthians. Making categories and distinctions is not the same as making factions. For instance, we have ministers, elders, deacons, and laymen. They do not share the same set of duties and priveleges. That does not imply that any of those grouops is a second class Christian.”

    You are of Apollos, you are of Paul, you are ?? Categorization, fragmentation, factions, dis-unification…the end result is, different groups. Categorization is not evil per ser, as you rightly point in the ministerial roles, but factional categorization is. That is my point. You end up creating a second class group of citizens; a different category of cHRISTIANS. That distinction does not exist.

  16. J.Kru said,

    March 27, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Then to what end does Scripture require self-examination?

  17. Lee said,

    March 27, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Just for the record before children are admitted to the Lord’s Supper in the RCUS they go through confirmation where they exhaustively memorize the Heidelberg Catechism.

  18. tim prussic said,

    March 27, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Mr. Gadbois, just a thought experiment for you:

    Christian parents spend a lot of time laboring to include (or rather to show the inclusion of) our children in all areas of worship. It’s a situation where one spends a lot of effort saying things like: “Listen: this is OUR God calling all of us to worship him.” “We’re praying to OUR God for x, y, z….” “Stand up and rejoice, son. This is when we get to sing OUR praises to OUR God.” “Here, put your offering in here… now, we all sing this response together because we’re offering it to OUR God as one body.” “Listen, this is OUR God speaking to us in the preaching of his word.” In short, we labor both to include and to show how our children are included in the worship of Yahweh.

    Now, enter the table. The church’s actions toward my children are in direct contradiction of my verbal instruction (which could be in error… but then we should become GARBs). I’ve been including my young children in everything, telling them that WE’RE ALL ONE BODY. I’ve been training them to discern the body. Now that dinner is served, they’re excluded from that very body.

    I suspect that, in the name of discerning the body, we’re splitting it up.

    Now, I submit to my Session and the Standards of my church. Thus, *I* shoulder the inconsistency. My children have no idea of the thoughts I just expressed to you. They see me in submission. I use what I think is the inconsistency for their instruction. I don’t, however, think I agree with the policy.

    What are your thoughts, Mr. Gadbois (or anyone else that’s interested)?

  19. tim prussic said,

    March 27, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Lee, what percentage of your covenant children exhaustively memorize the HC and *finally* get to eat at the table with all the adults that don’t have it memorized?

  20. David Gadbois said,

    March 27, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Tim, fair point. My quick answer would be that most of that issue goes away if we allow fairly young children to come to the Table. Not as young as 1, but perhaps 5 or so. If they can intelligently pray and sing in worship, my guess is that they should at least be able to claim Christ as their Savior, affirm the Apostle’s Creed, and acknowledge Christ’s presence in the Supper.

  21. Vern Crisler said,

    March 27, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Jeff, it’s known as a logical fallacy.

  22. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Sorry, Vern – I’m dense here: what is “it”?

  23. tim prussic said,

    March 27, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Thanks, David. I’m amazed at what my kids have understood and articulated at two years of age. Most of the restrictions put on covenant children for Communion seem a bit arbitrary to me. I should expect a 1 year old to express a 1 year old faith in 1 year old terms, a 2 year old…. and so on. One thing I really don’t like about credo communion is that it simply assumes an unbelieving heart in covenant children. Conversely, I believe my children believe and *I treat them as such*. I can’t even guess at how powerful that paternal belief will be in their lives.

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    On Mablog, a fellow named Jack Bradley linked to a provocative article by Poythress.

    In it, he speaks to credo-baptists, arguing that at least we ought to allow young children who express faith to be baptized. Essentially, he’s arguing for “low-bar” baptism.

    Three things strike me about this article.

    (1) Poythress, of course, believes more than this; he thinks infants ought to be baptized. Nevertheless, his audience is hard-core Dispensationalists who cannot move to infant baptism without experiencing a gag reflex. In an effort to bring rapprochement, he is moving to the middle in a principled fashion: Even if you Dispies can’t accept paedobaptism, can we at least agree that kids who make a profession should be baptized?

    It strikes me that Dr. Poythress’ paper could well be a model for the pro-PC side here. You will probably never get traction for paedocommunion. But you might easily get agreement — and real change in polity! — by moving to the middle and advocating “low-bar” communion. Browse back through and be surprised at the diverse anti-PC folk who countenance low-bar communion.

    (2) Poythress’ paper made me walk down the path of what would happen in churches that follow his advice. I am struck once again at the irony that a child aged 8 could transfer, with his parents, from a Baptist church to a Presbyterian church and consequently lose the privilege of communion. That really would be “suspension of the sacraments.” I would hope that sessions would display some wisdom there.

    (3) Poythress’ paper deals really nicely with the issues we’ve been hashing out here: external religion, the faith of a child, the place of children in the body of Christ.

    Jeff Cagle

  25. David Gadbois said,

    March 28, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Are we saved then by learning?

    Instrumentally, yes. But that isn’t saying anything different than that we are saved by the foolishness of preaching, as Paul says. We are saved by learning the Gospel through the preached Word unto faith.

    Indeed. The preached word creates faith even in my mother’s womb (Psalm 22).

    This kind of lazy proof-texting isn’t going to fly around here.

    1. There is no mention of pre-natal preached Word here.

    2. The translation of v. 9 is disputed, whether it refers to trust in God or the infant’s trust in the mother or mother’s breasts. Calvin actually follows the latter interpretation.

    3. This could simply be a ‘a poetic expression of God’s life-long faithfulness to him’ rather than technical description, as Richard Philips points out.

    4. In explicitly Messianic psalms, we do not have automatic warrant to universalize or normalize every line that is descriptive of David (as the divinely-appointed king and type of Christ) and Christ. Indeed, there are many *extraordinary* features in play in this chapter.

    5. And even if we do interpret v. 9 as referring to an infant’s trust in God, this does not rise to the level of evangelical faith. In this context, it would be a more generic trust in God and his sustaining providence, not trust in God as redeemer from sin. But God is known as Creator and sustainer to all – it is an artifact of general revelation. Whereas knowledge of God as Savior (that is, in Christ) is strictly an artifact of special revelation. That is to say, the Gospel is only in special revelation. And, as Romans 10 says, the Gospel must come to us propositionally, through the preached Word of His appointed ministers, in order to create faith.

    The Sacraments confirm that union with Christ that comes via water baptism (union with Christ, see Gaffin – Romans 6;

    First, that doesn’t make much sense. Essentially, you are saying ‘baptism confirms the union that comes through baptism.” That’s not what we confess in our catechism.

    As to Romans 6, I deny that the primary reference is to water baptism rather than the spiritual reality the rite signifies. The sign is often denominated in Scripture by the thing signified and vice versa, as WCF contends. Contextual reasons also push me to that conclusion – the group in view in Romans 6 are all elect. They all will be resurrected (v. 5, v. 8).

    Certainly, learning is not the point of the Supper. That is your point, however.

    No, my point is that learning is a prerequisite for the Supper, not the point or purpose of the Supper.

    You say: You must learn this in order to receive this. I say, receive this (bread and wine) and grow in faith by learning this (Creeds, catechisms ,etc).

    Fair enough summary, but what is the argument for preferring one over the other? Not *all* forms of grace need be prevenient as baptism often (though not always, as in the case of adult converts) is.

    My argument is simple – one can’t partake of what one can’t partake. Even if the elders were to give infants the Supper, they could only feed on the bread and wine. But we cannot feed on Christ with our mouths, we must feed on Christ with faith. As the Belgic Confession says, faith is the hand and mouth of our souls.

    You are right, it is not pure subjectivism, it is totus subjectivism. You criteria in your session may be completely different than another session. By what standard?

    So what if criteria differ between sessions and consistories? The exact same thing could be said of adult converts. You are stuck with the same problem. In both cases discernment according to biblical principles is required, and will result in differing results from different sessions and consistories.

    Yeesh. Talk about another chapter in the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty (QIRC). Paging Dr. Clark. Paging Dr. Clark.

    You end up creating a second class group of citizens; a different category of cHRISTIANS. That distinction does not exist.

    That is just assertion. Why or how does this categorization create a ‘second class group of citizens’? If you reply ‘because they do not share the same set of priveleges’, then we are stuck saying the same thing about the minister/elder/layman distinction.

    And, as I’ve pointed out in other threads, we don’t consider comatose patients to be second-class Christians or somehow ‘excommunicated’ simply because we don’t give them the sacrament. Or am I to understand that you and Bret will be advocating feeding-tube communion?

  26. Andrew said,

    March 28, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Jeff,

    Your contributions here have been thoughful and balanced, and this is a gentle question, not an aggressive one – I am wanting to make sure I have embraced PC too quickly.

    To me, the arguement that I Cor 11 does not include children, but only those capable of self-examination seems plausible. It can be read like those passages “Whoever does not work should not eat”, or “Repent, and be baptized”.

    But I would only claim plausibility; the stricter reading is not impossible. But since I think it is up to the CC to justify excluding covenant members in good standing, plausibility is enough. I Cor 11 is effectively a stalemate, and so we look elsewhere, and I don’t see any other/any stronger CC support text.

    Where would you part ways with me? Would you say Rayburn’s reading is utterly implausible? Or would you say (for historical reasons or whatever) that it is up to the PC to prove his posistion, and so a ‘draw’ in I Cor favours the CC posistion?

    Thanks,

    A

  27. Uri Brito said,

    March 28, 2009 at 9:33 am

    David, too busy to reply…though I am tempted. Perhaps Monday.

  28. Lee said,

    March 28, 2009 at 10:02 am

    The vast majority. Memorizing is not as hard as you might think. Especially when it is simply expected. It is a little sad that today we consider the HC, which is basically an explanation of the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, to be some complex requirement for the table and some sort of burden placed on members. Really, do we want lots of people coming to the table of the Lord who do not understand the Lord’s Prayer or the very basic teachings of the Apostle’s Creed?

  29. Chris Donato said,

    March 28, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    The church of which I am member practices thus: when parents deem the time appropriate, they put their children forward to communicants class. “Appropriate” is loosely defined as “when the particular child exhibits faith in Christ.” No ages are delineated, yet we’ve never had anyone younger than five (and I don’t think we’d admit anyone much younger than that, at any rate). The average age is 8-10. The oldest we’ve had was 15-ish (and, incidentally, this young person came out of the Dutch Reformed tradition). Ours being somewhat of a hodge-podge congregation (unaffiliated, but Reformed), many different thoughts and feelings exist as to when is the appropriate time. Hence our putting it in the hands of the parents to put their children forward.

    I taught this class for a few years, and I simply went through the basics of the gospel. It began in January and ended, with examinations, on Palm Sunday. Communicants were welcomed on Maundy Thursday.

    I’m a fan of younger ages communing, though not infants, for, to put it in a certain bishop’s words: “Babies need to learn table manners before they can take regular part.” So, I think 5-ish is good (although being “bright” has little to do with it, in my opinion). But, as Lane said, it depends on the kid.

  30. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 28, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Chris, I’m interested in your experience. We tried to take a couple of 8-year-olds through the communicant’s class and it didn’t really work. But it wasn’t for lack of faith on their part, so much as it was a real unclarity about gospel and law.

    How did the classes go for you?

    Jeff Cagle

  31. Mark Dove said,

    March 28, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Tim,

    I have very similar thoughts on this as those you expressed. Just one side thought, you say, “My children have no idea of the thoughts I just expressed…” This would no doubt change based on the age of the children, but I discuss my disagreement with my children. It is a further teaching opportunity. How much more do they see submission, understanding the disagreement.

  32. Andrew said,

    March 29, 2009 at 2:35 am

    Jeff,

    If you have time, I would appreciate if you were able to respond to a comment I made under 6 – if not, never mind.

    Forgive my boldness – I know this system can get a bit crossed.

  33. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the dialog.

    To me, the arguement that I Cor 11 does not include children, but only those capable of self-examination seems plausible.

    Yes, it is plausible. So is Rayburn’s contention that children are not likely to be misbehaving the way that the Corinthians were; so therefore, we should not fear for their safety.

    But I would only claim plausibility; the stricter reading is not impossible.

    I think that’s a safe position. If we really want to be able to say, “Thus saith the Lord”, then we have to restrict ourselves to “good and necessary inferences.” In this case, I don’t think that either position (PC, CC) can put forward a slam-dunk necessary inference.

    But since I think it is up to the CC to justify excluding covenant members in good standing, plausibility is enough… [W]ould you say (for historical reasons or whatever) that it is up to the PC to prove his posistion, and so a ‘draw’ in I Cor favours the CC posistion?

    I do tend to defer to the collective wisdom of the Church on disputed matters, so “historical reasons” are part of my position.

    The other part, though, is a consideration of what “worthy partaking” might entail. For two reasons, I think that “worthy partaking” includes both a vertical component and a horizontal component. Rayburn focuses only on the horizontal; his argument is plausible, but it appears to leave something out.

    (1) 1 Cor 11 is part of a larger passage that begins at 10.1 and continues to the end of chap. 11.

    In this passage, Paul says,

    Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? — 1 Cor 10.18-22

    I note that participating in the cup of idols, and then partaking of communion, is a species of “unworthy” or “unacceptable” participation that arouses the Lord to jealousy. Both the central concern of worthy participation and also the threat of God’s anger tie this pericope to the 1 Cor 11 passage.

    Thus we have a strongly suggestion that participating in the cup requires a recognition that it is the cup of the Lord, and it seems to implicitly require a relationship with the Lord as a part of participation (else, why would He be “jealous”).

    I believe that infants *can* be saved; but I don’t believe that all baptized infants *are* saved.

    Thus as a matter of practice, I would not offer communion to all infants. But as soon as they show signs of faith, I become impatient for them to become communing members!

    (2) The efficacy of the sacraments is faith. In the case of baptism, the promise of sins washed away is realized at the moment of faith, regardless of the timing of the baptism. Without trying to split hairs too fine, baptism points in the main to justification.

    In the case of communion, the promise of Christ’s righteousness given to us, of our union with him, is realized as we trust Him by faith to sustain us. Communion points in the main to sanctification by the righteousness of Christ.

    (I don’t want to overplay this; both sacraments point to both aspects of salvation, just as Christ’s blood washes us at justification once for all, and continues to wash us in sanctification. But the once-for-all nature of baptism fits nicely with J and the ongoing nature of communion fits nicely with S).

    And the main point is, we receive the benefit of the sacrament through faith.

    Even if infants are able to believe in Christ by a special work of the Spirit, still, they would need an additional work of the Spirit to understand and believe the relationship between communion and His work in their lives.

    When I put it like that, I can’t really justify finding such an additional work of the Spirit in the Scripture, AND I don’t see the harm in waiting until they can express faith.

    In short: I think that worthy participation requires a vertical element of “right relationship with God” — justification. And, I think efficacious participation requires faith, and I cannot find a reason to believe that infants regularly receive a special work of the Spirit so as to understand communion.

    It’s not a water-tight argument. If I get to heaven and God reveals that He intended paedocommunion all along, then I’ll have no choice but thank Him for grace.

    Jeff Cagle

  34. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2009 at 11:30 am

    No, I just missed it. Sorry! here’s my reply.

    Jeff Cagle

  35. Andrew said,

    March 29, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Jeff,

    Thanks. I appreciate your time. I will not revisit the arguements that have already been made.

    Briefly, I suppose I differ over the ‘vertical relationship’, in that while it is clear that many baptized infants turn out to be unregenerate, I believ it is still our duty to treat them as Christians. From the perspective of the elders, the vertical relationship is in place. But that is a slightly broader topic.

    On faith, I would be open to saying that the efficacy of it is not tied to the moment of administration – i.e. we can look back in faith to God sustaining us throughout our lives.

    I also think that the same is true if we remember that the church corporate takes communnion – even if the child is not blessed at the time, the rest of the congregation is by the participation of the whole congregation.

    I would also suggest that we can be sanctified without being selfconciously aware of it. For instance, looking back on trials that at the time seemed pointless, we now see God’s moulding us in a more Christ-like fashion. This could happen with paedocommunion as well – a child capable of eating is capable of feeling included (from my limited parenting experience). So it might be true that he does not feed on Christ (the person) by faith, but he can be blessed and feed/recognize the body of Christ (the rest of the congregation). But perhaps this seems too far from the meaning of the Supper to be valid. I supopose I would appeal to baptism which is also spoken of in active terms (putting on Christ; having a clean heart, etc). A sacrament can operate at many different levels, and it seems to me that if any are possible, then we need other reasons to object.

    Anyway, I will think about what you said: no doubt there will be more elaboration from the reviewers of the book!

  36. tim prussic said,

    March 30, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Lee, your spin (in the post below?) on this seems silly and hardly believable to me. “Memorizing the HC, *pfff*, no prob. That’s nuthin’ but an explanation of the Creed and Prayer. Really, it’s not much, when you think about it.”

    I’m familiar with the memorization of large tracts of text – we had to memorize a handful of chapters of the Bible in seminary, not to mention the WSC. I think my memory is far better than most people (though, not as good as some). From my standpoint, I think the *requirement* of memorizing the HC before you can eat at the Lord’s Table is ludicrous and completely unfounded in the Scripture. The apostolic admonition to “discern the Lord’s body” could mean numerous things. But “memorize the Heidelberg Catechism” is certainly not one of them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think that memorization is awesome and a most worthy task. But as a prerequisite to eat at the Table, I think it’s nuts.

  37. Lee said,

    March 30, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Tim,
    I am sorry to hear that you think requiring memorization of a catechism such as the Heidelberg as a prerequisite to eat at the table is “nuts”. You have just declared the entire reformation “nuts”. Calvin required catechism (though obviously not the HC), as did Bucer, and Luther, and most of the rest of them as far as I know.

    Which brings up an interesting point that is just being taken for granted here. Does I Corinthians 11 mean “profession of faith” when it speaks of “examine yourself” and “discerning the Lord’s body”? Or does it mean something else, something more substantial? When I read that a man needs to examine himself, judge himself, and discern the Lord’s body I think it is a heavier requirement than just “Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart.”

    This debate between non paedo-communion and paedo-communion is very interesting, but I think that both sides are rushing to have little children come to the table as if they are second class Christians or missing a vital piece of their salvation until they eat the bread. Calvin, Luther, and Bucer all practiced catechetical requirements to the Supper. There position is not even represented in this debate.

  38. David Gray said,

    March 30, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Calvin required catechism (though obviously not the HC), as did Bucer, and Luther, and most of the rest of them as far as I know.

    They required all communicants to be able to recite the catechisms entirely from memory before they could partake of the Lord’s Supper?

  39. Lee said,

    March 30, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    David,
    I don’t think so. I was only speaking of requirements for covenant children to come to the table seeing as this is the topic at hand. Calvin required confirmation where kids had to memorize catechism. If memory serves me right he did this about age 10. Sorry if I was unclear on that.

  40. Chris Donato said,

    April 2, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Jeff, you’ve probably moved on by now, but here goes…

    My experience was actually quite good, not least with the younger ages, but I get the feeling it’s partially about expectations. To be sure, law/gospel is often the confusing part for kids. As I teach through the class, I’m constantly asking questions at random to every child there. It is during this time that I attempt to discern which kids might be better off waiting a while longer. But my premise is the same for each going in: that they’re (little) people of faith, and all I want to do is confirm that (remember, we’re asking parents to put their children forward when they deem them ready). This means that by the time the examinations roll around, I’m definitely not putting all the eggs in that basket; if I’ve done my job throughout the class, then I already know which ones will be confirmed. What with children getting all nervous, etc., judging them solely on their “performance” in a brief examination does not seem prudent.

    Put differently, and more succintly, all I expect these children to do is confess Romans 10:9, along with Eph. 2:8-10, but I teach so much more than that during the class and consider it icing when they choose of their own volition to expound upon such things (which I goad them to do during the examinations).

  41. June 25, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    […] I have both posted our first response to Venema’s book, and then Lane responded to my post here. There is some good discussion going on in the comments thread over there. Let’s try to do […]


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